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Social & Religious Life of Harappa Civilization

Social Life:

In Indus valley civilization, the society was divided into three distinct social groups. One group ruled and administered the city, the other group included the merchants who were associated with trade and other business activities in the city. The third group were the labourers who worked in the city. They also included the farmers who cultivated wheat and barley as their main crops. Animals like the buffaloes, sheeps and pigs and the humped bull were bred. Fish, mutton, beef, poultry and pork consisted the food they ate. Animals like the elephant, camels and dogs were also domesticated.

Men also seemed to have worn ornaments like fillets, necklaces, finger rings and armlets. Women were fond of ornaments like earrings, bangles, bracelets, necklaces, girdles and anklets made of shell, beads, gold and silver and copper. Razors, bronze mirrors and combs made of ivory speaks of the people interest in personal upkeep. Toys like the whistle and carts besides puppets, rattles and dolls made of terracotta speaks greatly about the attitude of the people in child care. People enjoyed playing in dice and marble. Gambling was a favourite past time of the elder members in the society.

Religious Life:

Scholars are unable to draw a conclusion regarding the religion of Indus people. Unlike Mesopotamia or Egypt, there was no such buildings discovered so that we can conclude it might be a temple or involve any kind of public worship. However some historians are of the opinion that Harappan people were Hindus.

The Harappan religion was polytheistic. They used cattle, elephants and other animals to represent their Gods. The Harappan seals were amulets addressed to the Harappan Gods. The Gods of the Harappans depicted on their seals represented the Gods of the various economic corporations in the Indus Valley. The unicorn God, probably represented `Ma`, while the cattle God probably represented Kali or Uma, Amma or Pravarti, the mother goddess.

The bulk of public buildings in the city seemed to be solely oriented towards the economy and making life comfortable for the Harappans. We do, however, have a number of tantalizing figures on various seals and statues. What we gather from these figures, is that the Harappans probably exercised some sort of goddess worship. There is, however, some sort of male god that has the head of a man with the horns of a bull. In addition, we believe from various artifacts that the Harappans also may have worshipped natural objects or animistic forces, but the circumstances of this worship can only be guessed at. No temple has yet been discovered. From the Pashupati seal, it is certain that they worshipped Shiva. There is an image of Shiva, seated on a stool flanked by an elephant. Numerous pottery figurines of Mother Goddesses have also been found. Nature worship must have been part of their ritual as revealed in the seals. There is a scene of a horned goddess, before whom another horned deity is kneeling and animals as some male figures wearing the horns of a goat or a bull, some animals standing on rectangular pedestals, composite animals having body of a ram and trunk of an elephant, a limestone bull having a garland round his neck and a unicorn being carried in a procession.

However Historian John Keays in his book on Religion of Harappans countered this view. He states: "The religion of Harappans is unknown. No site has certainly been identified as a temple and most suppositions about sacrificial fires, cult objects and deities rest on doubtful retrospective references from Hindu practices of many centuries later. Such inferences may be as futile as, say, looking to Islamic astronomy for an explanation of the orientation of the pyramids. In short, these theories are all fanciful and do not bear scrutiny".

"Depicted on some Harappan seals, is that of a big-nosed gentleman wearing a horned head-dress who sits in the lotus position, an air of abstraction and an audience of animals. He cannot be the early manifestation of Lord Shiva as Pashupati, `Lord of the Beasts.` Myth, as has been noted, is subject to frequent revision. The chances of a deity remaining closely associated with the specific powers - in this case, fertility, asceticism, and familiarity with the animal kingdom - for all of two thousand years must raise serious doubts, especially since, during the interval, there is little evidence for the currency of this myth. Rudra, a Vedic deity later identified with Shiva, is indeed referred to as Pasupati because of his association with the cattle, but asceticism and meditation were not Rudra`s specialties nor is he usually credited with an empathy for animals other than kine. More plausibly, it has been suggested that the Harappan figure`s heavily horned headgear bespeaks a bull cult, to which numerous other representations of bulls lend substance.

"Similar doubts surround the female terracotta figurines which are often described as mother goddesses. Pop-eyed, bat-eared, belted and sometime miniskirted, they are usually of crude workmanship and grotesque mien. Only a dusty-eyed archaeologist could describe them as `pleasing little things.` The bat-ears, on closer inspection, appear to be elaborate head dresses or hairstyles. If, as the prominent and clumsily applied breasts suggest, they were fertility symbols, why bother with millinery? Or indeed miniskirts?"

"Similar to the cultures of ancient Middle East, it appears that the Indus religion recognized some type of life after death. Unlike Hindus who practice cremation, Indus people carefully buried their dead in wooded coffins with their heads facing north and the feet pointing south. Included in the graves were pottery jars containing food and weapons for use in the afterlife."

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